Food sampling returns to grocery aisle with pandemic protections

Customers are noshing on free samples within the grocery aisle once more — albeit with extra pandemic protections than earlier than.

Two weeks in the past, grocery chain Stew Leonard’s started handing out bite-sized samples of its do-it-yourself cheesecake stuffed into tiny paper cups — however solely after constructing 28 plexiglass cubicles to maintain staff at a protected distance from prospects.

Just final week the New York metro space chain added 5 extra meals gadgets to its giveaway –watermelons, pineapples, rooster burgers, salad and Stew Leonard-branded chocolate cream pies — all of that are being handed out by way of a small opening on the backside of its handcrafted plexiglass cubicles by masked and gloved staff.

The quirky chain identified for its petting zoos and animatronic shows solely reintroduced the follow after polling prospects by way of its Facebook web page.

Stew Leonard's staffer Devon Wilkins takes a break from handing out pink pineapple samples through a small opening at the bottom of his plexiglass sampling booth in Norwalk, Conn. Ninety-five percent of Stew Leonard's customers polled recently said they want food samples back as vaccinations rise to 63% of the US population.
Stew Leonard’s staffer Devon Wilkins takes a break from handing out pink pineapple samples by way of a small opening on the backside of his plexiglass sampling sales space in Norwalk, Conn.
Stew Leonard’s

Ninety-five p.c of respondents replied “yes” to bringing sampling again, Stew Leonard, proprietor of the eponymous grocery chain advised The Post. “Our customers love the samples and have been asking for them,” Leonard stated.

With COVID-19 infections dramatically down and vaccination charges up, little bites of cake, fruit, cheese and meat are making a comeback at meals retailers large and small. But whilst individuals are extra receptive to consuming indoors amongst strangers once more, prospects are nonetheless demanding that their grocery retailer sampling be performed otherwise than earlier than.

Costco and Sam’s Club have additionally just lately stated they may resume their food sample applications this week with new pandemic restrictions. Costco will likely be handing out samples by way of plexiglass cubicles, like Stew Leonard’s, whereas Sam’s Club stated its meals demos will solely be held on weekends with sealed samples.

Meanwhile, specialists say the return to sampling may assist enhance grocery store gross sales as skyrocketing meals costs threaten to decrease shoppers’ buying energy in different sections of the grocery retailer, like the meat aisle.

“Stores like sampling because it makes people hungry and they buy more as a result,” stated retail advisor Burt Flickinger, who says that consumers who nosh and store usually add 10 p.c extra to their invoice by buying the promoted product. 

Mom-and-pop manufacturers that depend on sampling to get the phrase out about their new merchandise have additionally been keen to begin passing out little paper cups at supermarkets once more.

Stew_Leonard's supermarket in Farmingdale, NY.
Stew Leonard’s is amongst a rising variety of supermarkets handing out samples once more as coronavirus restrictions elevate.
Edmund J Coppa

Salad dressing maker Bold Palate had its first tasting two weeks in the past on the Upper West Side Pioneer Market at 289 Columbus Ave., the place it almost ran out of the availability it introduced to the shop.

“Most customers wanted to try everything, which surprised me,” Kate Mann, chief government of Bold Palate Foods LLC, advised The Post. 

“We launched our product the same week the pandemic was being labeled a pandemic. So at that time, stores weren’t taking new brands like mine,” Mann added.

Although Mann’s tasting desk was not surrounded by plexiglass, she and her employees had been sporting face masks and gloves and shortly knowledgeable prospects who stopped by that she and the employees had been “fully vaccinated,” she stated.

Mann expects her brick-and-mortar gross sales to probably double now that she can provide away free tastings of her 4 types of plant-based dressings. And that’s not pie-in-the-sky considering, specialists say.

“A brand can increase its sales at a store by 300 percent in just one day by doing sampling,” Phoodie Marketing chief government Sam Miller, advised The Post. “And if you do it a couple times a month, your sales can be huge.”

Shoppers reach for cheese samples during the grand opening of the new Ralphs at 9th and Flower in downtown Los Angeles Friday July 14, 2007. After decades without a major supermarket, downtown is getting a grocery store. Many downtown boosters view the market's opening as a sign that the area has become a true residential neighborhood.  (Photo by Richard Hartog/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Food samples like this went out of fashion final 12 months however are coming again now — with new COVID restrictions.
Los Angeles Times by way of Getty Imag

Supermarkets abruptly dropped meals sampling in the beginning of the pandemic. Setting up tables that appeal to small crowds was merely unhealthy enterprise at a time when social distancing and getting out and in of shops shortly was the norm.

But the CDC’s new steerage about vaccinated individuals being allowed to ditch their masks in most public settings, has proved a sport changer.

“Three weeks ago no one was calling about setting up a demo,” stated Brian Lillquist, co-owner of Kinetic Events, which produces meals demos for each retailers and types. “Now the requests have significantly increased mostly for dates later in the summer.”

“We used to do 400 demos a month and this month we’ll do 40 if we’re lucky,” one other meals demo government, Rachel Golian-Rafaelov stated, however that’s shortly altering, she added.

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